Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Christian Way

The Christian Way

In my "Advice to Rational Philosophers (who may happen to be Theologists)", I said that my next article would be "an existential defensive of the Golden Rule."

But on further reflection, that may be jumping the gun. A "great need" has arisen for explaining to the more staunch "orthodox Christians" why the Golden Rule is so important, along with the First Commandment.

Why are the important? Because Jesus said that the Old Testament all hung on those two commandments.

Jesus also said this is what one needs for eternal life.

Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. "Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?" He answered, "What's written in God's Law? How do you interpret it?" He said, "That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself." "Good answer!" said Jesus. "Do it and you'll live."
(Luke 10:25-28 - MSG)
These synoptic verses embody, in very plain language, the essence of Christian Soteriology. Furthermore, Matthew adds the idea that "everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from" these commandments.
Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them."
(Matthew 22:37-40 - MSG)
Even further: we have very good reason to believe that Jesus was being very precise with his language, since he was talking to a religious scholar -- that is, a "Sharia Lawyer" -- who was trying to trip him up. As an aside, we do know from history[1] that the Pharisees weren't necessarily the bad guys they seem in New Testament...but since they have come to be associated with the evils of a lawyer-esque approach to religion, I will refer to them as "New Testament Pharisees", or NTP's.

There are NTP's today, who profess to be "orthodox Christian" -- but do not live by the two commandments Jesus said were the necessities for eternal life. And ironically, there are people who profess other religions who do live by those two commandments -- and at the risk of offending them, I will say that they live a life sanctioned by the essence of Christian Soteriology as outlined above. I hereby say that they live "in a Christian Way".

Isn't that nice? Sir, it is pie...but if it were in the power of the NTP's of the world, they would burn me as a heretic.

Don't believe me? Let's discuss for a moment about what isn't a part of the Christian Way:

  • Baptism -- infant or otherwise
  • Tithing
  • Belonging to any religion in particular, Christian or otherwise
  • Attending church every Sunday, or on "holy days of obligation", or what-have-you
  • Diet
  • Circumcision
  • "Receiving Holy Communion" or "Taking Offering", or whatever
  • Believing in miracles one cannot see, such as those of Transubstantiation, or Consubstantiation, or other human doctrines
  • Believing in (yet another) physical Resurrection and Assumption into Heaven
  • Believing in (yet another) Virgin birth
  • Believing in any particular (or even "mysterious") aspects of God, including trinitarianism.
  • Murdering so-called "heretics"
Many of these practices don't conflict with the Christian Way -- but they are human inventions that confound the very essence of Christian Soteriology. Further: to put it nicely, it does a disservice to Jesus' message -- the Gospel, the Good News -- to claim that any of these listed items are necessary for Christian Salvation.

Final discussion

I linked above to the Wikipedia article on Michael Servetus, whose entry I came across while reading about Unitarian Universalism (UU). It would be interesting to compare & contrast Calvin's attack, and subsequent conspiracy to murder Servetus: with the kind of outrageous, hateful, and erroneous actions undertaken by the modern "religious right" here in our United States.

And that "religious right" -- these New Testament Pharisees -- will no-doubt question what Jesus meant by "God", "Love", and "Neighbor" in the verses I've quoted...and in doing so, they will be tearing apart the very Good News, the Christian Way, that Jesus spoke -- and which they largely ignore.

Scott Doty

Santa Rosa, California

2009-01-06 - Feast of the Epiphany for some.

[1] Citation from "Isaac Asimov's Guide to the Bible, Vol. 2 needed

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